Jesus?" part 1
What Does the Resurrection Prove about Jesus?
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
April 4, 2010
BEGINNING OF SERVICE:
Today is Easter, and there are all kinds of traditions surrounding
In Scotland, they celebrate Easter by rolling decorated eggs down a
in Louisiana, every Easter they hold an egg tapping context, where you
try to tap two eggs together without cracking either egg. The last
person with their eggs intact wins.
In Bermuda, they celebrate by eating fish cakes.
In the Netherlands, between Good Friday and Easter, all the Church
bells are silent, but begin ringing again on Easter morning.
In Norway -- and don’t ask me why – but they have a tradition
of watching murder mysteries on Easter.
glad you don’t live in the Czech Republic. They have a tradition of men
spanking the women with a handmade whip at Easter. Or in Slovakia, the
tradition is that the men throw cold water on the women. Apparently,
there’s a tradition that says that it helps women keep their health and
beauty for the next year. And just to add to this bizarre custom, the
women often give a coloured egg or a small amount of money to the men
to thank them.
And maybe you have your own unique Easter
traditions. But there’s one tradition that goes back centuries, perhaps
all the way back to the early Church, when Christ followers would greet
each other in a certain way. One would say, “He Is Risen” and the other
would respond “He Is Risen Indeed”. So let’s try that together…
He Is Risen!
He Is Risen Indeed!
that’s why we’re here this morning: to celebrate the fact that Jesus
Christ is risen from the dead. On Friday, some of us gathered here to
remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for each of us when He freely
gave His life on the cross. And we talked about how that sacrifice
meant that He was paying the price for our sinfulness, offering us
forgiveness in its place.
But Jesus dying wasn’t the end of the
story… because Jesus also rose from the dead and is alive and well
today. So as we get started this morning, I’m going to ask Derek to
come and read one of the passages that tells us about the Resurrection…
many of you had a birthday in the past year? How did you celebrate it?
Did you have a party? Did you invite over a few friends? Did you get
together with family? Let me ask you this… whoever you spent your
birthday with, how did they react when you described the day of your
birth? You did do that, didn’t you? You did call everyone together and
explain, “This is what happened the day I was born… it was 2:07 in the
morning, it was a very special day… even my mother was there… the
doctors waited until the contractions were this far apart… You did do
that, didn’t you?
Okay, probably not. Because even while
birthdays used to be a day to celebrate the day of your birth, they’ve
kind of morphed from that and now they celebrate your age. Now it’s not
about your actual birthday; it’s about how old you are now, about
presents, about cake… about all these different things.
about Labour Day? Last September 7th, how did you celebrate the
economic and social achievements of the work force? You do know that’s
what Labour Day is for, don’t you? What did you think it was for?
Taking a day off, sleeping in, doing some chores around the house, and
having some friends over for that last BBQ of the summer? Or maybe you
know Labour Day as the last day of the year you can wear white?
how about Canada Day? On July 1st, how many of you actually gather
everyone around, pull out a copy of the British North America Act, and
read through it? How many of you have ever even seen a copy of the
British North America Act? That’s how Canada Day started, but now what
do you think of when you think of Canada Day? You think about flags and
Well, today is Easter. What do you think of
when you think of Easter? A lot of people think about Easter eggs,
Bunnies, weird commercials where bunnies lay Easter eggs… you might
think about pastel colours, about Easter baskets, maybe you watch “It’s
the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown”… I know we did this week… maybe you
think of Easter as the beginning Spring…
Maybe you include some
religious or spiritual context… maybe you do think about Church and
about Christianity… in fact, a recent survey in the States revealed
that 67% of Americans know that Easter has something to do with God.
But less than half could tell you what it’s really about, and only 2%
described Easter as the most important holiday of their faith. Here,
take a look at some of the responses when some people on the street
were asked what they thought the meaning of Easter is.
VIDEO – THE MEANING OF EASTER (SermonVideos.com)
some people got it or were on the right track; others were way off. But
Easter is not a celebration of rabbits laying eggs, or about candy and
chocolate… it’s not even about celebrating Jesus and His teachings or
about Christianity or the Church… Easter is a celebration of a specific
event in history. In fact, it’s the most important event in history.
It’s about the day that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
some people treat the Resurrection like it’s just a church thing… if
you’re into that kind of thing, then it’s true for you and that’s
great. Other people think it’s just a fairy tale… not something that
really happened, just a story that was made up decades or even
centuries later. Other people think you can just take it or leave it…
it really doesn’t matter.
And you know what? If the Resurrection
didn’t actually happen, then it really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t
matter what you believe, it doesn’t matter who Jesus was… in fact, if
the Resurrection didn’t happen, then Jesus was just a guy who had some
interesting things to say, and you can pick and choose what you want,
you can quote Him in books, but He certainly wouldn’t be someone to
place your faith in today.
But… what if the Resurrection really
did happen? What would that prove about Jesus? How would that affect
the way you view Him and treat Him today? What difference would it make
to your life?
Of course, that’s a pretty big leap, isn’t it?
Believing in the Resurrection? What evidence is there that it was a
real event… that it actually happened in time/space history? Is it
something you just choose to believe in or not believe in, or is there
actually evidence that supports the conclusion that it really happened?
know, Christianity out of all the faiths in the world, is the easiest
one to discredit. All you have to do is disprove the Resurrection. It’s
central to Christianity, and if you can show conclusively that it could
not and did not happen, then that would be the end of Christianity.
world famous atheist Christopher Hitchens wrote a book back in 2007
trying to disprove the existence of God, and during his book tour he
was asked if he made a distinction between Christians who believe in
the Resurrection and Christians who don’t. And while I disagree with a
lot of what Christopher Hitchens has to say, his response to that
question is one I wholeheartedly agree with…
“I would say that
if you don't believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah,
and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are
forgiven, you're really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.”
~ Christopher Hitchens
is based on the historic Jesus… His life, His death, and most
importantly His resurrection. Without the Resurrection, nothing else
would really matter.
But you know what? Christopher Hitchens is
not the first person to present this argument. As early as 20 years
after the crucifixion, the apostle Paul addressed this same problem of
throwing belief in the Resurrection out of the Christian faith. I’m
going to read for you the whole passage, and then we’re going to go
back through it a little at a time. Okay?
1 Corinthians 15:14-15, 17-19 (NLT)
Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your
faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we
have said that God raised Christ from the grave. …If Christ has not
been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of
your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are
lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to
be pitied than anyone in the world.
So is there any evidence? Is
there any reason to believe in the Resurrection, or is it just a matter
of faith? And the reason I ask is that I don’t believe in a blind
faith. I believe in a reasonable faith… one that looks where the
evidence points and moves in that direction. So what evidence is there
for the Resurrection.
We’ve actually talked about some of this
before here at Sunrise, but I want to look at some of the evidence
again because I want you to understand that you don’t have to be
embarrassed because you believe someone came back from the dead, that
faith in Jesus can be reasonable and logical, that when you actually
look at the evidence it points toward the Resurrection as an actual
event in history. So let’s start by talking about the eyewitness
Why Should I Believe the
Resurrection Really Happened?
There are early eyewitness accounts.
And we’ll take a little bit of time with this first one.
the truth is, there are dozens of non-Biblical references to Jesus
found in documents from the first and second centuries… from
Christians, from historians, from skeptics and nonbelievers, from
official government correspondence, from lost works that were quoted in
other sources… And they can shed some light on the time of Jesus and
how different people viewed Him. But honestly, everything we know about
the Resurrection comes from the New Testament. I can’t point to
nonChristian documents to prove the Resurrection happened. Which makes
perfect sense to me, because if you believed in the Resurrection why
would you not become a Christ-follower?
But I don’t really see a
reason to ignore the most detailed and the most credible and earliest
documents we have… the Books of the New Testament. One of the
pet-arguments that skeptics have today is that you can’t use the Bible
to prove the Bible. But you know what you can do? Treat the books of
the Bible like any other historic book, subject it to something called
textual criticism, and determine how reliable they are.
that a lot of people don’t seem to realize is that the Bible is not
just one book… it’s a collection of 66 different books, written by over
40 different people, and 24 of those books were written by people who
either saw Jesus die and saw Him after the Resurrection, or were
friends with people who saw Jesus die and saw Him after the
Resurrection. So we don’t believe in the Resurrection simply because
some book tells us to; we believe it because of seven people who live
in the time of Jesus in the vicinity of Jerusalem who were witnesses to
what was going on, and who wrote about it, and whose writings have
survived through time and have been passed down to us today.
let’s talk about some of the writers. Let’s start with Matthew. Who was
Matthew? What did Matthew do before he followed Jesus? He was a
tax-collector. And this is huge. This means Matthew wasn’t really a
religious person. He had given up on the Jewish religion and had sided
with the Romans and became a tax-collector. He was at best a skeptic.
But he writes about how he saw Jesus die and rise from the dead, and
for the rest of his life he went around telling people about not about
the things Jesus said but about the resurrection. And so if you’re
going to reject the Resurrection, then you’ve got to conclude that
Matthew was either lying or was confused. And if all we had was
Matthew, that would be understandable.
But we also have Mark.
Mark was probably Greek, he lived in Jerusalem, his mother was a
wealthy businesswoman… We don’t know if Mark actually saw the
crucifixion or the Resurrected Jesus, but we do know that Mark was a
friend of Peter. And Mark was so convinced by what he heard about Jesus
that he took notes and wrote a book about it… the earliest Gospel that
we have… earlier this morning Derek read some of what Mark wrote… and
Mark would go on to travel with the Apostle Paul telling people about
the Resurrection. He was completely convinced.
And then there’s
Luke. What was Luke’s background? He was a doctor. So here you have a
medical professional who actually believed that someone who was dead
came back to life. Plus, Luke was a detailed investigator. Right at the
beginning of the Gospel of Luke, he wrote…
Luke 1:1-4 (NLT)
people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been
fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among
us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything
from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for
you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of
everything you were taught.
So Luke wrote that his goal was to
write a detailed and accurate account of what had happened, he
carefully investigated the evidence and interviewed the eyewitnesses…
there were at least 550 people who saw Jesus after the Resurrection,
and Luke would have talked with many of them… and he was writing in the
very area where the events took place! Which is important, because if
he was writing about something that happened in a far-off land, who
could argue with him? But he was writing in the same location where the
events happened. And if they didn’t happen, the people would have
known. Luke believed that the Resurrection really happened, and he
would spend the rest of his life traveling throughout Europe and the
Mediterranean area telling people about the Resurrected Jesus.
John was a fisherman before following Jesus. John wrote the Gospel of
John, he wrote three letters we still have copies of today, and he’s
believed to have written the book of Revelation. And here’s an
interesting thing about John. When Jesus was hanging on the cross
dying, Jesus looked at John and asked him to take care of His mother.
John was someone very close to Jesus, John was close with the family of
Jesus, John watched Jesus die, John visited the empty tomb, John
believed Jesus came back to life… and he spent the rest of his life
proclaiming that, even having people trying to kill him and being
imprisoned and living in exile because of what he believed he saw.
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John… they all believed that Jesus died and
then rose from the dead… so you’ve got to believe that they were all
confused, they were all lying, that all the people they interviewed
were lying and the evidence the examined was false… or you’ve got to
believe what they claimed happened really happened.
another guy who was also a fisherman. And Peter was a coward. When
Jesus was facing execution, Peter was so scared he denied he even knew
Jesus. But this same Peter would spend the rest of his life, often
risking his life, telling people that Jesus had been crucified and
buried, and then rose from the dead. It wasn’t just what he believed,
but what he believed he saw. It wasn’t just a matter of faith; it was
what he believed really happened.
And how about James? James
came around to Jesus a little bit after most of the rest. And I think
you can understand why. You see, James was the brother of Jesus. Now,
how many of you have a brother? What would it take for you to be
convinced that your brother was God in the flesh? James was
understandably reluctant to become a follower of Jesus. But James
became convinced that Jesus was divine, that He did rise from the dead,
and James ended up becoming a leader in the early Church… at great
personal risk because to go public with your faith in Jesus made you an
enemy of Rome. You were saying that Jesus is king, not Caesar. But
James was convinced and he wrote about that.
Luke, John, Peter, James… to discount their story, you’ve got to say
they were all lying, that they were all confused, that they were all
deceived, you’ve got to discredit them somehow… but you can’t just not
believe because you don’t want to believe.
The last one we’re
going to talk about here is Paul. Paul wrote about half of the New
Testament. And the thing about Paul is, He was originally an enemy of
Christians. He thought Christianity was just a corruption of Judaism,
and he wanted all Christ-followers to suffer the same fate as Jesus. He
wanted them all dead. And so he was a zealous persecutor of Christians.
So what happened to him? He had an encounter with Jesus himself, he met
with Peter and John and James and all the Apostles, and he became so
convinced that Jesus really did rise from the dead that he spent the
rest of his life traveling around the known world telling people about
Jesus and starting new communities of faith… and the central message he
told? That Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the dead.
got all these people, claiming that Jesus died and was Resurrected,
writing about it, and if you follow their story through, they had
nothing to gain. Most would be put to death because of their belief
that Jesus rose from the dead. They didn’t have anything to gain by
lying about it and trying to convince people of something that didn’t
And it’s important to recognize how early these written
accounts appeared. There’s always debate about this, but some of the
writings can be traced back to within 5-7 years of the crucifixion. 20
years on the outside. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 15:3ff, Paul quotes one
of the early Christian creeds about the death and resurrection of
Jesus, and it can be traced back to within 18 months! That’s incredibly
close for any historical manuscript.
So we have these
manuscripts that have survived through time, and if you ask any expert
– Christian or not – they would tell you that if you have these many
historical documents written so close to the actual events in the same
vicinity that the events took place, they would tell you that all this
lends credibility to historicity of the events, and that there were
probably many other writings that didn’t survive. There were hundreds
of people who saw Jesus after the resurrection… individually and in
groups… people who talked with Him and touched Him… and the people who
saw the Resurrected Jesus had their lives radically transformed and
they committed the rest of their lives to telling people of what they
saw. The eyewitness testimony alone is overwhelming. But there’s more
evidence than just that. (And we’ll move through the rest a bit
The disciples were willing to die for their claims.
already touched on this, but do you realize the disciples had nothing
to gain by claiming Jesus rose from the dead? They would be beaten,
imprisoned, persecuted, and killed for that claim. But they made their
claims anyway, they stuck by them, and were put to death for them.
I am aware that there have been plenty of people throughout history who
have died for their faith, whether what they believed was true or not.
We’ve seen this in recent days with terrorists and suicide bombers.
This is true:
will willingly die for their faith if they believe it’s true.
But this is equally true:
will not willingly die for their faith if they know it’s false.
Because nobody knowingly dies for a lie.
the disciples really did manage to steal the body and made this whole
thing up. Don’t you think that after the first of them was killed
because of what he claimed, that the rest of them would have admitted,
“Whoa, hold on. We were only joking. We didn’t think you’d take us this
seriously. (Please don’t kill us.)” But they didn’t take back their
claims, did they? And one by one, they were put to death. As far as we
know, only John wasn’t killed for his claims, but they did try to kill
And yet, despite the persecution, torture, ridicule,
and executions, not one of them recanted their story. They maintained
that what they claimed they saw, they really saw. Jesus really did rise
from the dead.
The empty tomb could not be explained away.
Roman and Jewish leaders couldn’t disprove that the Resurrection
happened. They tried to, they desperately wanted to, but they couldn’t.
And the major problem they had was that empty tomb.
they knew where the body had been placed. Oh, if you traveled to Israel
today, you’d find lots of people in different locations charging
admission to see the place where Jesus was buried. There are lots of
scams like that today.
But the Romans and the Jewish leaders
knew exactly where the body of Jesus had been buried. They knew the
body of Jesus had been placed in a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea.
They knew where that was. In fact, they had ordered that the tomb be
sealed with a huge disk-shaped stone, and that there be guards
stationed there to make sure nobody tried to pull anything. They knew
where the tomb was, no doubt about it.
But then what happened?
Within three days, the body was missing. They couldn’t produce the
body, they couldn’t show that the body had been stolen, they couldn’t
say that he was in a different grave, they couldn’t explain why the
highly-trained guards failed, and they couldn’t explain away the
appearances. They had all the motivation and power in the world to
squash the claims of the disciples… all they had to do was produce the
body. But they simply weren’t able to do it because the tomb was empty.
2000 years later, even nonChristian historians acknowledge that the
tomb was empty. That’s not really a point of dispute; the tomb was
empty. They just don’t have an explanation for why it was empty.
Because there is no valid alternative for explaining the empty tomb
other that the resurrection.
Jesus is still changing lives today.
this one isn’t really meant to be taken as historic evidence. This
one’s a little more subjective. But do you realize that Jesus is still
changing lives today? Many of us here know that to be true by personal
experience. We have a relationship with Him today. We know that Jesus
rose from the dead because we’ve encountered Him ourselves. Our lives
have been transformed.
And we believe that power to change is
only a reality because Jesus rose from the dead and is alive today.
Taken by themselves, you can either accept our personal experiences
with Jesus or write them off. But when packaged with the historical and
the eyewitness evidence, this personal experience that so many of us
have had becomes relevant and points toward a resurrection.
that’s some of the evidence for the resurrection. And there’s more we
could have talked about. Just do a search online and you’ll find plenty
of arguments in support of believing in the Resurrection as a real,
“We don't have to believe in the resurrection in
spite of the facts. Instead, we believe in the resurrection in light of
~ Steve Cable, Probe Ministries
So what does this mean? So what if the Resurrection really happened?
What difference does it make? What does it prove?
Resurrection proves that Jesus is the Son of God
is part one in a series we’re going to be doing over the next several
weeks called, “Who Is Jesus?” And right off the bat, we need to
understand that Jesus is the Son of God. We’ll be talking more about
that and what that means as we work our way through this series. And
we’ll also look at some of the events of His life, some of His
teachings… and we’ll do kind of a character study of who Jesus is.
the key thing we learn about Jesus from the resurrection is that He
really is the Son of God. We’re told that explicitly in the writings of
Paul, in Romans 1:4…
Romans 1:4 (NLT)
And Jesus Christ our
Lord was shown to be the Son of God when God powerfully raised him from
the dead by means of the Holy Spirit.
So what it comes down to
is this: If the Resurrection didn’t happen, then you’re perfectly free
to ignore Jesus and that’s fine. But if the Resurrection is true… well,
that changes everything. And you have to take Jesus seriously. You have
to recognize that He was more than a man, more than a prophet, more
than a good moral teacher… you have to recognize that Jesus was and is
divine. He was God in the flesh.
And that means He is alive and
well today. And that has tremendous implications for our own future. It
means we can have hope for the future. It means that this life is not
all there is. It means that if Jesus really did rise from the dead,
then He is God and has authority over life and death. And so He meant
it when He said…
John 11:25 (NLT)
“I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will
live, even after dying.”
the Resurrection is true… and I believe the evidence supports that…
then Jesus really can make that promise. For those of us who have
placed our faith in Him, who have chosen to follow Him and live for
Him, we will live even after dying. We will be raised to eternal life
with Him. Paul wrote…
1 Thessalonians 4:14 (NLT)
For since we
believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe
that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who
If you’re here this morning and have never chosen to
believe in Jesus and to live for Him, the question for you is, what are
you going to do about it? What are you going to make of the evidence?
Will you investigate it further? Will you be honest enough to ask if
Jesus really is who He claimed to be? Will you choose to place your
faith and your hope in Him, too?